Parenting

Three Words You Should Never Say to a Young Mom

Photo Credit: Bridget Colla via Flickr

Photo Credit: Bridget Colla via Flickr

I held my friend’s brand new baby, and I almost heard myself dole out that verbal adage that evokes serious maternal guilt.  I bit my tongue just before I told her, “Enjoy every minute.”

Last night I met Cayden, a long-awaited newborn who is fifteen days old.  He was wide awake and snuggly, and I was as smitten as I’ve always been with those perfect little newborn eyelashes and impossibly tiny fingernails.  I swayed gently as we moms do, because putting a baby in our arms is like turning the crank on a wind-up toy.  When he started to cry, I pulled out all my best newborn tricks, and I assured his mom that as long as she felt comfortable, I wasn’t really at all afraid of fussing baby boys.  I’m highly familiar.

But then I remembered that sometimes the only thing the baby boy wants is his momma, not any fancy tricks from some lady who thinks she knows the drill.  I waved the white flag, handed all ten pounds of him back to his mom, and he quieted as soon as he heard the voice he had been listening to for nine months.

I listened as Cayden’s parents talked about his midnight routines, as my friend described the tears pouring down her face from utter exhaustion at 2 AM.  I remembered those earliest days when my husband and I were new parents, when we were staying up all night at the best slumber party ever, floating on the euphoric fact that we had together created a person.

And that’s when I almost said, “Enjoy it.  Enjoy every minute of this sacred season.”  Even now, recalling that sentiment makes me want to kick myself in the shins.

Thankfully, just before the words came spilling out of my mouth with the weight of a cliche that’s a million years old, I remembered the truth: the season is sacred and fleeting, but it’s not every-moment-enjoyable.  That giddy stage I mentioned lasted roughly four nights, and then the sleepless hours caught up to us.  We were unspeakably tired for a good many years, and that’s when I was lucky enough to have my husband with me to partner in parenting.

But the thing is, just when we were starting to find our groove, Robb died.  He was sick for twelve hours, he died quickly and tragically from a misdiagnosed infection, and I suddenly became a widowed, single mom of two boys who weren’t yet in kindergarten.  Some days I’m still reeling from the truth of that statement, even four years later.  I’m still on my own, and the sleepless nights of my children are awfully reminiscent of those newborn stages, but without a partner to commiserate with.

I was listening to a country station on Pandora the other day in the car when Trace Adkins began to sing the song “You’re Gonna Miss This.”  It’s a whole song about the same sentiment—how fast these years are, how we parents are supposed to take it all in and love it so much, even when the toilet is clogged again with little pairs of Superman underwear, someone is home from school yet again because we can’t seem to make it 24-hours-fever-free, and there’s a melted crayon bleeding all over the clothes in the dryer.

You’re gonna miss this, he sang.  Doubt it, I said aloud as I turned off the radio.

So, when I listened to Cayden’s parents talk about how tired they are as they’re learning the likes and dislikes, needs and wants of this baby boy who is forever theirs, I stopped just short of those words I hate.  The truth is, they will have some really great moments, but those moments might be scattered between some long stretches of really, really hard.

Sometimes she’ll be just so utterly exhausted that she can’t see straight or think clearly.  She’ll have spit-up spots on her shirts for the next eight months.  She’s going to get peed on and pooped on.  She’ll add “go to the bathroom” to her list of things to do today, just so she can feel a measure of productivity.  She’ll cry a lot, she won’t know why, and Cayden’s dad will have to learn to take the unspoken cues from a walking roller coaster of hormones.

She will learn how tough she really is, how little sleep she really needs, and the subtle differences between his hungry cry, his angry cry, and his scared cry.  She will hear him learn his voice and her name.  She will love him with a ferocity that could very well break her in half.  She will wear her heart outside her body, from this day forward.

Instead of empty words that mean very little to one in the trenches, I said, “I bet you’re so tired.  But you’ll find your stride and you’ll get some sleep again someday. It’s okay if you don’t love being awake at 2 AM.  That doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby, it just means you don’t like being awake at ungodly hours.  You know what?  You’re winning at this.  Congratulations, new mom.  You look like a total pro.”